The late 1940’s, the 50’s, and the 60’s are notable for the great changes made to American society as a whole. These changes came with issues that challenged the U.S.’s core values of liberty, equality and justice. After World War II, many veterans struggled to assimilate back into society, so the G.I. Bill was published to assist them and provide them liberty. The need for manpower in WWII led minorities to be recruited for the war effort, creating the first steps towards equality. During the Civil Rights movement, McCarthyism was thriving amongst the community, striking fear into citizens’ minds, until the Army-McCarthy hearings were televised and McCarthy was served justice for his lies. Despite the challenges it faced, America economically, socially, and politically adhered to its values during the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s.
During the postwar era, the U.S. government successfully supported liberty economically. Through the G.I. Bill, veterans were given opportunities to freely pursue any education they wanted in addition to various benefits that allowed them to flourish. They were also given funds based on certain conditions that allowed farmers and those who had little to no income to support themselves. Farmers were provided unemployment allowances until their first crop, which gave them the liberty to thoroughly plan out crops based on season, and in the meantime they did not have to worry about being unable to support themselves (“Research Starters: The GI Bill”). Some of the main benefits provided by the G.I. Bill included funds that allowed them opportunities to go to school, money to buy housing, and medical care.
This provided veterans with the liberty of purchasing any home, finding any job, or enrolling in any college they desired (Huxen). If a veteran needed financial aid, they could also loan money from the government in order to support themselves. If they were unable to pay the debt, the government would pay back 50 percent of it, leaving the remaining for the veteran to pay off. This meant that the veteran could still support themselves without being burdened by debt (“Research Starters: The GI Bill”). In today’s world, the U.S. government continues to provide veterans with liberty through benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This department, like the G.I. Bill, provides free healthcare, employment assistance, and free life insurance to veterans. However, it also allows the veterans’ spouses, children, or parents to gain these benefits if the veteran is killed in action or severely wounded (“VA Benefits…”). This allows the family to regain economic stability and the liberty to assimilate and re-establish themselves in the community as they please. Without the G.I. Bill, the foundations for such benefits would not be in place, leaving many veterans and their families without jobs or solid economic stability.
The U.S. government had also successfully promoted equality through social means during the World War II (WWII) era. The need for more manpower in WWII triggered America to recruit minorities into the military, giving them important roles and putting them in the same platoons as whites, allowing the different racial and social groups to acclimate to one another. Some groups of minorities served crucial roles in the war, such as the Tuskegee Airmen escorting bomber planes and Native Americans using their language as a code to communicate messages. These roles proved that minorities were equally as capable and essential as a white man during wartime (Mason). The government’s acceptance of minorities was soon shared by white soldiers as well. After WWII, a survey was given to white officers and non-coms about their opinions on blacks before and after serving with them. The survey found that 77% of both non-coms and officers gained a greater respect for blacks following their service in the military (“Opinions About Negro Infantry Platoons in White Companies”).
This could be compared to the effect that the Vietnam War had on the Civil Rights movement. In experiencing the trauma of being forced to kill, witnessing colleagues being shot down and mined, and witnessing the effects of chemical weaponry such as napalm and Agent Orange with other minors of different races, it allowed the black and white soldiers within the military to put their differences aside for the sake of survival. Women also gained important roles and representation during the second World War that played an important part in promoting social equality. On May 14, 1942, a bill was published that established the Women’s Auxiliary Corps for non-combat service such as medical work. One year after their creation, the unit was renamed the Women’s Army Corps and given official military status, promoting equality by placing them on the same pedestal as male militiamen (“House Resolution 6293 Establishing the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps”). By minorities opportunities in the military, the government managed to successfully promote social equality within the United States by showing their capabilities.
The era of the Cold War was also a time where the value of justice was promoted politically. The Army McCarthy Trials promoted justice by exposing McCarthy for his lies and heinous actions against others he disagreed with, and ultimately the trials denounced his status and led to the fall of McCarthyism. When McCarthyism was thriving, Senator McCarthy held hearings accusing people of communist activity. In these hearings, he acted very power-hungry and aggressive towards these people. In one instance, he threatened a teacher that refused to confess by telling an aide to transfer his and his wife’s testimony to the board of education to get them fired. He committed social and political injustices on those he interrogated, and when he crossed the line by interrogating the U.S. Army, it prompted the U.S. to serve justice through The Army McCarthy hearings (Karl).
Through them, the accused militiamen were given the ability to clear their names and properly expose McCarthy as a liar (“Army McCarthy Hearings”). Within the hearings themselves, McCarthy and the army debated on the case of Fred Fisher, a man who supposedly had affiliations with a communist organization. Fisher’s accomplice, Joseph Welch, defended him on public television by stating that he was still a good samaritan regardless of his supposedly communist affiliations. In this statement being publicized on television, justice was given to those accused by McCarthy such as Fisher when people began to turn away from McCarthyism and McCarthy himself, making him lose his fame and fade into obscurity (“The Army-McCarthy Hearings, 1954”). In bringing the downfall of Senator McCarthy, the Army McCarthy Hearings had successfully allowed justice to be brought to those affected by McCarthyism.
In the Postwar Era, the G.I. Bill supplied veterans with economic benefits that provided them with liberty. Minorities were enrolled in the army during WWII, which allowed social equality to develop. When McCarthyism was pushed too far, the Army McCarthy hearings politically allowed justice to be provided to the victims. When the G.I. Bill was published, it allowed veterans to go to whatever school they wished, provided them with medical care, and loaned them money to keep themselves and their families economically stable. WWII highlighted the capabilities of minorities, such as escort piloting and medical care, and helped whites to accept minorities as equals rather than lower citizens. The Army McCarthy Trials contained testimonies from army men that proved McCarthy’s actions were unjust. Although there have been terrible events that occurred in the wake of these successes, such as the McCarthy hearings themselves, the racism and segregation that frequented the states, and many female veterans struggling to reap the benefits of the G.I. Bill, these events resulted in positive outcomes that outweigh the negatives by a significant margin. Utilizing these crucial events, America fully supported its values of liberty, equality, and justice during the ‘40’s, 50’s, and ‘60’s.